Almanack Contributor David Gibson

David Gibson

Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for nearly 25 years, much of that time as Executive Director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and then as first Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

During Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history.

Currently, Dave is a partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Adirondack High Peaks Management Plan Unmet, Outdated

There has been detailed documentation in the Adirondack Almanack about ongoing recreational pressures and resulting damage to parts of the High Peaks Wilderness Area, the largest Wilderness unit in the NYS Forest Preserve (and in most of the country).

Severe impacts have resulted to some adjacent trailheads, highways, roads, and parking areas, and certain areas of the interior. NYS DEC personnel, Summit Stewards, and town governments, indeed all of us, feel the pressure from large numbers of us enjoying the Eastern High Peaks, and in some cases requiring search and rescue. What to do about it all has been debated in this space by various stakeholders, including DEC Forest Rangers, with much good information exchanged and good comments and suggestions.

However, current comments and conditions feel like déjà vu all over again. I refer to the 17 year-old document that very specifically guides our public land manager, the NYS DEC, in addressing recreational user pressure on the High Peaks and how to keep the High Peaks as wilderness.

The 1999 High Peaks Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan (UMP) is that guiding document. I propose that we spend more time addressing this plan, its management recommendations and actions to date, and how the UMP might be updated to reflect the era, conditions and user pressures we are now encountering. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 24, 2017

An Environmental Salute to George Canon

The late Newcomb Town Supervisor George Canon did not concede anything to the environmental side, but in paying my respects to him I admit to admiration for what he accomplished for his town and county and for how, beneath a very tough exterior, George cared little about who he was seen with, who he would approach, talk with or share a drink with. Not that he wanted my organizations to publish pictures of us smiling before the camera. That would have gone too far.

Early on, when George and I met occasionally, our only common ground was to talk about a man we knew from very different points of view – Arthur Masten Crocker. Arthur was a patrician member of the Tahawus Club, so a part-time resident of Newcomb. He was also a leading environmentalist of his time, having grown to young manhood around Masten House, near the old village of Adirondac, and fished lakes Henderson and Colden.  Arthur also appreciated Adirondack history, local guides and men who worked for National Lead – men like George Canon. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

John Collins’ Stewardship, Friendship, Respect, and Mentorship

My admiration of the late John Collins of Blue Mountain Lake and Indian Lake grew significantly after hearing the eulogies by John’s family and friends at the Adirondack Museum (Experience).

The slivers of time that I shared with John since I first met him at the Adirondack Park Agency thirty years ago became tall pillars of pine after hearing from those who grew up with John, or grew better and stronger thanks to their interactions and positive influence. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hadley Mountain Firetower Marking 100 Years

I recently led a bird walk up Hadley Mountain (or Hadley Hill), near Hadley and Stony Creek.

Hadley’s firetower marks its centennial anniversary this year (1917-2017) so there is increased appreciation of this forest preserve mountain ridgeline (2653’) and its history in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest.

Dating to its organization under the leadership of Jack Freeman of ADK in 1995, Hadley’s firetower committee, led by local residents, is one of the oldest, most tenacious and effective in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Adirondack Wild: ‘Oppose A Constitutional Convention’

Article 14, Section 1 New York State Constitution Forever Wild clauseAs this year’s legislative session winds down, more public attention is focused on November’s vote whether or not convene a state constitutional convention in Albany.

As Article XIV – the “forever wild” clause –  is of particular relevance to both the Adirondack and Catskill Park regions, I offer the following resolution approved by Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve this spring. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

David Gibson On The People’s Climate March

The feeling that remains in me following the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. is one of renewal. Spring in the northeast has a lot to do with sustaining it. A wood thrush is singing in our woods again (miracle of miracles, given their steady decline in the northeast), a newly arrived pair of gray catbirds are eagerly consuming the mealworms in our feeder, bluebird nestlings can be heard peeping from the nest box. It is a time of renewal of life and of faith.

But to witness the strength and determination of that huge crowd clogging the streets of D.C.; to be with so many in their teens and 20s climbing those big trees on the Ellipse to get a better picture of the immense crowd; to see faces of all colors; to feel the pounding pulse of the drummers from North Carolina who never once stopped their rhythm from 11 am to 4 pm; to see sweat pouring off a not so young woman from that same state determined to keep her banner aloft despite the gusts of wind on Pennsylvania Avenue almost (but not quite) as determined to bring it down; to stay in the close company of three very determined New York State women, each about 76 years young, keeping to their feet all day in 92 degrees (one keeping beat with the drummers with a whistle); these are all impressions I will not soon forget and which renew my faith in humankind. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

David Gibson: A World Class Park And The North Hudson Gateway

How many times can we use the phrase “world class” and have it mean much?

Governor Cuomo has used that term to describe the $32 million Gateway to the Adirondacks around Northway Exit 29 in North Hudson. This “world class recreational experience will be realized through the establishment of state, local and private partnerships,” said the Governor’s State of the State report. “Transforming this site into an attractive destination will link local and regional resources and provide year round recreation opportunities and services for multiple uses, users and businesses… Drawing  visitors to North Hudson to connect with premier opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and boating. This, coupled with commercial business development, will revitalize communities and help transform this region.”

I join others in certainly wishing this Gateway project well. But in a sense every I-87 Northway exit is a kind of gateway for visitors and residents who seek what the Adirondack Park has to offer – not just recreation but re-creation of ourselves in some cases, not just adventure but transformative experience in some cases, not just an automotive gateway but a gateway to the mind, the emotions and the senses that highly contrasts with our response to populous, pressure packed, polluted places and imagery not far away. When you drive into the Park you immediately realize this is not anyplace USA. That’s not an accident but a result of policies to protect the Park. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

David Gibson: Embracing Swamps

Long before antimalarial drugs, draining the swamp was a literal human life saver. Sometime after Earth Day 1970, when over 90 percent of the country’s swamps had already been drained, people began to appreciate by their very rarity what swamps looked like, what lived there and how they functioned and benefited society. By 2017, “draining the swamp” has been trivialized into a meaningless electoral slogan. The usage of this phrase infuriates me, but someone inside my head is reminding me to “get over it.”

The actual swamps in New York are highly diverse and on a landscape or local scale contribute vitally to natural infrastructure benefiting our human communities and the more than human world we should aspire to live with. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dave Gibson on EPA: Rachel Carson, Richard Nixon, and Judith Enck

Congressional representative Elise Stefanik should invite the new head of the U.S. EPA, Scott Pruitt, to visit her district. She might introduce Mr. Pruitt to the homeowners in Ballston Spa whose homes have been turned upside down thanks to release of some very bad chemicals from a nearby, now closed dry cleaning facility.

In July 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requested that EPA perform an environmental assessment. In August 2016, the EPA collected air samples and detected high levels of chloroform; TCE (trichloroethylene); PCE; vinyl chloride; benzene; and naphthalene. These chemicals are likely in the ground water as well. This winter, EPA is evaluating homes downstream of the dry cleaners for vapor intrusion into those homes. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dave Gibson to APA: Protecting Open Space Should Be Paramount

Something’s not right when the APA stops writing about open space protection in permits for Resource Management and Rural Use lands – precisely where the State Legislature places great emphasis on open space and resource protection.

The latest example is the draft permit now on the APA website authorizing 15 new residences on 590 acres in Resource Management overlooking the High Peaks, to be accessed off Route 73 near Adirondack Loj Road in North Elba. This subdivision (Barile, Project No. 2016-0114) is up for a vote by the APA Thursday.

In the draft permit for Barile’s North Elba subdivision, project impacts and some mitigation to limit impacts of the 15 new homes, driveways, and accessory buildings are listed for a lot of resources, including Visual, Wetlands, Habitat, Soils, Surface Waters, Groundwater, Invasive Species, Vegetation, Infrastructure, Historic Sites or Structures, and Nearby Land Uses.

But not open space protection. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Infrastructure Construction at Boreas Ponds?

Governor Cuomo’s proposed new public-private initiative to revitalize Northway Exit 29 in the Adirondack Park, the former Frontiertown theme park, and to create a new visitor center and “gateway” there to benefit not just the town of North Hudson, but Essex County and the entire Adirondack Park is a good proposal.

After the Governor spent public funds to acquire the nearby Boreas Ponds for the Forest Preserve as a kind of gateway to the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness, this well-traveled sector of Essex County so close to I-87 deserves a gateway information and interpretive center that helps attract, orient, inform and inspire curious travelers – whether or not those visitors intend an outdoor adventure at Boreas Ponds.

What concerns me is one sentence buried in that same State of the State report (on page 271): “Specifically, DEC will construct infrastructure at Boreas Ponds in the Adirondacks and build trails as part of the “Hut-to-Hut” system that links State lands to community amenities.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Dave Gibson: Planning for Wilderness Management

Photo by Phil Brown 2016. View of Gothics from Boreas Ponds.As I review notes from several public hearings on the State Land Classifications, including Boreas Ponds, the apparent gulf between voices to “keep it or make it wild” and “this isn’t wilderness anyway and we need motorized access” seem unbridgeable.

Well, perhaps not. More than one or two speaking out for “more access” to the Boreas Ponds (usually meaning motorized) also addressed how experiencing quiet, serenity and wildlife undisturbed moved them personally as much as any wilderness advocate. For their part, several wilderness advocates stressed that economic benefits of access (usually non-motorized) should interest local businesses and governments. The personal values expressed by all the speakers clearly demonstrated the common ground for all of us – a deep appreciation, even love for being in the out of doors Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dave Gibson: Boreas Ponds Alternative 1 Shouldn’t Be There

Boreas Ponds APA Alternative 1Alternatives analysis is at the very heart of the State Environmental Quality Review Act. A state or local government agency cannot claim to have rationally chosen a preferred alternative course of action if other alternative approaches to achieve the same project with fewer environmental impacts have not been evaluated with the same degree of rigor and detail. That’s the law.

The eight public hearings about classifying more than 50,000 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve are winding down this week (final public hearings at Bear Mountain and Albany), and the Adirondack Park Agency, sponsor of these hearings, is not following the law in several crucial respects. These include the fact that APA has neither evaluated nor compared the four alternative ways to classify the Boreas Ponds tract, nor has it chosen at least one additional, reasonable alternative which has fewer environmental impacts than all the others: that being a classification alternative as Wilderness for all or most of the tract, necessitating the closure of all or most of the Gulf Brook Road to public motorized uses. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Dave Gibson On The Boreas Ponds Northville Hearing

Boreas Ponds by Carl Heilman IIAt the Northville Central School public hearing this past week, about 60 citizens lined up to speak their minds regarding the Adirondack Park Agency’s 2016 – 2017 Amendments to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. These amendments involve the Classification and Reclassification of 54,418 acres of State Lands (Forest Preserve) in the Adirondack Park which include the Boreas Ponds Tract, 32 Additional Classification Proposals, 13 Reclassification Proposals, and 56 Classifications involving map corrections.

As I waited my turn at the microphone, I was very impressed with the respectful sincerity and preparedness of the speakers who came before me. These included folks much younger than me who spoke about wilderness values, the potential of wild restoration, and how such restoration comports with their own personal values. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Constraints on Public Participation in Adirondack Park Management

gate-open-on-chain-lakes-rd-south-allowing-motor-vehicles-in-wild-river-corridorThere are many ways to constrain the boundaries around public participation in decision-making. One way is to sidestep the law without amending it, thereby limiting public awareness and legislative debate of the issues. An example of this is occurring on the former Finch, Pruyn lands where the State wants to issue itself a permit or a variance to allow snowmobile connectors in river corridors when the law says that that motorized recreational activity is not permitted.

Under the Essex Chain of Lakes Primitive Area Unit Management Plan, the State recently argued in Albany County Supreme Court that DEC regulations allow the agency to issue itself a permit or variance to do things that others could not do, like build a motorized bridge over a scenic Cedar River, or operate motor vehicles over a scenic river like the Hudson River. Other parts of these River regulations expressly disallow the State from issuing itself a permit or variance to undertake a project which the statute disallows. » Continue Reading.


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